The social and moral work of modal constructions in granting remote requests

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Previous research has established that participants in interaction distinguish between those requests that can be satisfied immediately and those that are to be satisfied at some point in the future. Whereas immediate requests can be granted simply by the recipient carrying out the requested action, the preferred and aligning response to a remote request is a full-clause response with which the recipient commits to carrying out the requested action in the future. This paper investigates the most frequently occurring forms of full-clause, complying responses to remote requests in Danish interactions. We show that those full-clause responses that contain a modal adverb differ in interactionally relevant ways from those full-clause responses that do not contain a modal adverb. Full-clause responses without a modal adverb are treated by participants as indicating that the relevance of carrying out the requested action is a given and as such something that both requester and recipient understand as an appropriate action. Full-clause responses with modal adverbs, by contrast, are employed to indicate that the requested action is not recognizably appropriate to the recipient, but will be carried out specifically because it was requested.


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